Al Ain: Thailand’s qualification for the knockout stage of the AFC Asian Cup for the first time in 47 years has left Chanathip Songkrasin hoping more of his compatriots can follow his lead and take the opportunity to play overseas.
Chanathip has just completed an impressive first season in the J League with Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo and, with the Thais highlighting their qualities with their performances in the United Arab Emirates, the playmaker believes it is time for others to follow his lead.
“Now I want to thank my coach, Mihailo Petrovic, in Sapporo and the other players,” said the 25-year-old. “I’ve really improved and I’m proud of myself. Now I’m proud of my team and my country and we are going through to the Round of 16.
“If everybody plays well and there is good scouting then, if not J League, then go to the K-League or Australia or somewhere else. They have to scout for our players to go to other countries.
“All of the players are very strong because now we have players who have gone to play outside and also the Thai league is getting stronger. Everybody has improved.”
Chanathip is one of three Thai players to have featured in Japan’s professional league over the last 12 months, with Theerathon Bunmathan and Teerasil Dangda having stints at Vissel Kobe and Sanfrecce Hiroshima respectively, and all three were influential in the team’s 1-1 draw with host nation United Arab Emirates on Monday evening.
That result, coupled with a 1-0 win over Bahrain thanks to a solitary goal from Chanathip, was enough to take the Thais into the last 16, signalling a significant turnaround after their 4-1 loss in their opening game against India.
The loss to Stephen Constantine’s side resulted in Milovan Rajevac being replaced with Sirisak Yodyadthai and Chanathip claimed the coaching change brought an improved atmosphere within the camp.
“Congratulations to India, they played very well and the Thailand team played very badly and there were some problems in the team, so we changed coach,” he said.
“After that we had one spirit together and had a good attitude for the next game. We forgot the past.
“I’m very happy that we managed to make history for Thai football and for all 70 million Thai people. I want to thank the coach and the other players for everything they’ve done.”